It's been a season of grief. Our own grief is becoming worn and supple, though it still catches at our heels, constrains the way we walk. We limp as veteran mourners into the new fresh grief of K & N and my cousin (whose husband of 22 years died suddenly two weeks ago). I'd never been to a funeral of someone younger than 60 before (how fortunate! what lucky planet was I living on?) - but we've been to two within a week now.
I now have a new appreciation for funerals - the time that goes into them, the importance of the small details, the careful, deliberate laying-down of ritual and memory. We sit on hard wooden benches, search for tissues, give much longer than usual hugs.
How precious it is to have a festival for the lost one you treasured - to put them in the centre, include them in the party one last time. At the funeral, two incompatible realities collide: "He is gone forever, we must say goodbye" and "he will always be here with us, in our hearts". Nothing can stitch those two opposites into a cohesive story, but this is the heaving, fractal reality. Instead we have to re-stitch our hearts around it - or let them break, brittle, on the floor. It hurts to stitch our hearts like this, when the needle goes in we think we cannot bear it a moment longer. We think everything our hearts are made of will shatter. Yet the laws of physics bend once again, and so do our hearts - sore and tortured by the thread - pulled painfully back into something heart-shaped.
I wished so much I could offer some sage advice to K & N on how to survive this loss, but the truth is that I'm no closer to finding "the secret" than they are. Surely, it isn't helpful to say, "If your loss is anything like ours, you will struggle to stay sane and find meaning, you will feel broken for a long time and your loss will creep its way into everything - your work, your sexlife, your friendships, and into the minutiae of what you wear and how you cook."
It is the truth - but it is also true that we have times when things feel good, when it feels like the edges are coming together and we can laugh.
And even if we did know the secret (I'm still hopeful) it would nonetheless be our secret to our loss, and would likely be helpless in the lock of their sadness.
I was so hesitant about coming back to Sydney - to look at these "before" places where the imprint of being pregnant and pre-accident is so fresh. But once we were here, things were nowhere near as raw as I had imagined. Yes, I was here before - we drove these streets in our now-dead car, my tummy rounded and living full of our now-dead baby. But things were wound-back then, and it felt good to remember that witless hopefulness and presumption that everything would be okay. We drove past our old house and parked across the road, and I thought of the last time we pulled the front door shut behind us.
We were sweaty and gritted with the dust that emerged from behind the furniture. It had been humid since I'd woken up in the summer morning dark, still filling boxes. From 8 weeks, Haloumi had been waking me early, but that morning it was my excitement as well as hers that propelled me out of bed - this was the day - the day we moved. After so many hours, our hands papered with corrugated cardboard and the sweetness of packing tape on our teeth, the truck had left - our things packed tight like tetris blocks. We'd tiptoed across the damp-mopped floors with the real estate agent to sign off on the condition report. The electricity company man had come and read the meter, and switched off the power. We'd wiped the place clean of our existence there.
The car was loaded with all our holiday things - I took it to fill up on petrol while El Prima and the girls walked to the chicken shop, and parked it across the road, its nose pointing west to the M5, and Melbourne. And we sat there - on the naturestrip across the road from our house (no longer our house) and had an impromptu picnic on the grass - relishing for a moment all the work of packing and the relief of finishing it.
I had worked so hard, and though at times my mum or El Prima or the removalists had told me to sit down and have a break, I felt strengthened by my very-pregnant state, not weakened by it. My belly was heavy, but even in my sweaty dirty state, sitting on the naturestrip eating take-away I felt like a trailer-trash goddess - beautiful and potent. Sitting in the car nearly seven months later with a saggy belly and our baby girl reduced to ashes, I could still feel the warmth of that December afternoon on the grass - gone forever, but always here.
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